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REVIEW: Chicago

July 12, 2017 5:00 am0 commentsViews: 422

Peregrine_CHICAGO_Mediaby Jeannette de Beauvoir

It’s unusual to see a show performed locally while it’s still doing its (second) Broadway run, but that’s what the Peregrine Theatre Ensemble has managed to do with Chicago, to the absolute delight of Provincetown theater-goers. This is a musical that requires heavy lifting on the part of everyone involved—from cast and choreographer to set designers and musicians—and Peregrine has pulled it off absolutely flawlessly.

It’s Prohibition time in Chicago and corruption is everywhere, not least of all in the hearts—and crimes—of a number of women incarcerated for murder. The most famous girl on the cellblock, Velma Kelly (Katie O’Rourke), opens the show with the iconic and brilliantly staged All That Jazz, after which we meet the prison’s most famous girl-to-be, Roxie Hart (Maddie Garbady), who has shot her lover for leaving her and hasn’t quite managed to convince her husband that this is a Good Thing.

That play—between what is acceptable and what is unacceptable—is a thread that runs throughout the musical as it juggles issues of self-preservation, justice, perception, and even manners; and it’s what lifts the production above the corruption it illustrates. Why not kill someone who’s in the way? “Some guys,” complains one of the ensemble during the gorgeous Cellblock Tango, “just can’t hold their arsenic.”

Enter defense lawyer Billy Flynn (Ben Berry), whose spats, pencil-thin moustache and wisecracks situate us in the 1920s in a single glance, and whose services and loyalty can be bought for a price—$5,000, to be exact. Velma is soon supplanted in his priorities as he sees the publicity potential of representing Roxie, gathering a cynical press, a fawning agony aunt, and even the prison matron around his theatrical stunts.

Razzle-Dazzle isn’t just the name of one of the songs: it’s a description of the story, where glitz and glamour barely hide deceit and greed. But—here’s the thing—we like Roxie. We know who she is, and what she is, and we still root for her. Garbady is breathtaking in the role, smart and sassy and oddly vulnerable. “I’m older,” she says in wonder, “than I ever intended to be.”

The set’s art deco framing is only one small part of its genius. Keeping the cell doors at a slight angle makes them more mysterious and more natural than in other staging, and the lighting both sets and enhances audience reactions to the action; but all of it—set design, lighting, costuming—works seamlessly and flawlessly together. This, one feels, is how Chicago should look and feel. This is the ultimate Chicago.

And it’s funny. In a time when issues of corruption, ethics, and cruelty play out in our national consciousness, we may have forgotten how to laugh at the absurdity of our search for meaning in tweets and boasts and alternative facts. The timing of the quips (especially by Ben Berry, who can’t put a foot wrong) makes one laugh first and gasp in somewhat embarrassed horror afterward, and that’s the true genius of Chicago: the ability to discover humanity beneath the desperation of reality.

Chicago is performed by the Peregrine Theatre Ensemble at Fishermen Hall, 12 Winslow St., Provincetown. For tickets  ($40/$30) and information call 774.538.9084 or visit peregrinetheatre.com.